"Paranormal Activity 4" topped the weekend box office, but scared up just $30.2 million, the lowest opening in the found-footage horror franchise since the original debuted to $19 million in 2009.
Ben Affleck's political thriller "Argo" had a great second week. In 3,247 theaters, it should finish the weekend at around $16.6 million, down just 15 percent from its opening weekend. Warner Bros. had hoped the mature-skewing awards contender "Argo," which opening audiences gave a rare "A+" CinemaScore, would show staying power and it's off to a good start.
Make no mistake, with a $5 million production budget "Paranormal Activity 4" represents a major payday for distributor Paramount and producers Jason Blum and Oren Peli. But the studio and analysts expected more, with projections ranging from $35 million to $40 million and up. Nonetheless, Don Harris, Paramount's president of domestic distribution, wasn't disappointed.
"Believe me, everyone at Paramount is ecstatic with this morning," he told TheWrap Sunday. "You'll likely see one of these again next October, and that more than anything else speaks to how we feel about these movies. If you put cost vs. revenue, Paramount's never had a more profitable franchise."
The weekend numbers from overseas were encouraging. In 33 markets "Paranormal Activity 4" brought in another $26.5 million, and Harris believes the growing strength of the franchise brand will enable it to make up overseas any domestic dropoff.
"Paranormal Activity 3" opened about this time last year to $52 million and went on to make $205 million worldwide. "Paranormal Activity 2" debuted to $40.6 million in 2010. In all, the franchise has taken in more than $600 million worldwide.
Neither critics nor exit polling were kind to the R-rated horror thriller, but that's not unusual for the franchise or horror movies in general. The audiences at the 3,330 locations in which it played were 50-50 male-female and 60 percent under the age of 25 year. They gave it a "C" CinemaScore.
There was plenty of competition this week, too, with several films showing strong holds. The overall box office was better than last year's comparable weekend for the fourth consecutive time.
Reigning box office champ "Taken 2" brought in around $13.5 million in its third week. That put the Liam Neeson thriller in a tight race for third with Sony's resilient animated family film "Hotel Transylvania," which took in about the same total.
Fox's "Taken 2' was in 3,489 theaters and fell off just 39 percent from last week, impressive for a sequel. Its overall domestic total is now more than $109 million, and it has passed $245 million overseas.
Playing at 3,384 locations, "Hotel Transylvania" fell just 22 percent from last week and has grossed $119 million in four weeks domestically. It was one of three Sony films in the top ten, with the Kevin James comedy "Here Comes the Boom" seventh with $8.5 million in its second week and "Looper" at No. 10 with $4.2 million in its fourth week.
Horror films are typically popular with African-American and Hispanic moviegoers, and the presence of Tyler Perry in the marketplace with "Alex Cross" may have cut into the grosses for "Paranormal Activity 4."
The film, with Perry taking his first turn playing the psychologist-detective made famous in the James Patterson novels, opened with $11.7 million from 2,539 locations and will finish fifth. That's at the low end of expectations, but audiences -- 74 percent African-American, 68 percent over 35 and 60% female -- gave it an "A" CinemaScore, so word of mouth could help.
Last week's surprisingly strong $18 million opening for another Blum-produced found-footage horror film, Summit Entertainment's "Sinister," may have taken some of the edge off the "Paranormal Activity 4" opening. "Sinister" brought in another $8.9 million, a strong second week given the genre's propensity for steep second-week dropoffs.
Universal's comedy musical "Pitch Perfect" upped its overall domestic gross to $45.7 million with $7 million over the three days.
Disney's Tim Burton stop-action animated film "Frankenweenie" added $4.4 million in its third week, leaving it with a $28.3 million overall domestic total.